Witten by Chinsinsi Cheketa
Environmental activists in the country have weighed in on President Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s renewed commitment to sending the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Bill to Parliament for passing, during the current sitting.
With only two weeks remaining for the 5th meeting of the 50 Session of Parliament which has witnessed massive devastation of Tropical Cyclone Freddy as a result of climate change to be suspended, Dr Chakwera acknowledges, time has come to build new communities in safer areas, where those who have been living in killing fields of climate change events can relocate to, sooner than later.
In his national address on Tropical Cyclone Freddy Thursday Night at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, the Malawi leader said, “this will be part of embedding the concept of constructing secondary cities which already exist in the blueprint of the Malawi2023 vision. However, the priority will be districts that have communities in disaster prone areas”.
“This is the right thing to do and it’s not negotiable. I should also commend people in disaster prone areas in Nsanje who have told me that after years of being battled by climate change events, they have realized that they have been living in the valley of the shadow of death and they are ready to move” he added.
But while describing Dr Chakwera’s decision as a welcome move, environmental activist Charles Bakolo is optimistic that the bill will provide for the comprehensive management of existing and future Disaster risks and as well for the institutional framework and funding arrangements for the management of disaster risks and other matters connected disaster management.
Bakolo who is also Malawi Creation Care Network (MCCN) Voluntary Coordinator, added investing in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Malawi, will save lives, money and future-proofs of the country’s development gains.
“Investing in DRR will not only curb disaster losses as it also yields economic, social and environmental benefits that will enhance the well-being and resilience of our country and communities”, said Bakolo.
Taking his turn, Mathews Malata, President of the Association of Environmental Journalists in Malawi (AEJ) however, feels passing the Disaster Risk Management Bill only is not enough, but making sure that the bill has relevant provisions that speaks to the current situations.
“It is interesting to hear that the President has committed to sending the bill to parliament during the current sitting, let’s wait and see because such sentiments have been said before, and we hope now it will be treated with some level of seriousness looking at what we are experiencing as a country”, said Malata.
He said, authorities should also look into issues of mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) information across all concerned sectors and making sure that resources are provided for training and capacity building issues by investing in DRR interventions.
When he became President, Dr Chakwera promised he will fast track the tabling and passing of the bill in parliament, but till now, nothing has materialized.
10 years have since passed now with the bill still in draft form, despite environmental activists and Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC) pushing the government to table and pass the bill.
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) has been on the record as having said it is failing to execute one of its jobs of enhancing disaster reduction and resilience in the country due to lack of the legal framework to guide them.
Among others, the bill seeks to provide for the comprehensive management of existing and future disaster risks, for the institutional framework and funding arrangements for the management of disaster risk and other matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.